Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Thoughts

I've been working on a short story. This particular one is a bit difficult for me to write, because even though it is fiction, at it's center are some things that I based on my own experiences.
When I described what it was about to some friends the other night, I got the feeling that, when explained, the story-line seemed convoluted and hard to follow. Well, really I got a sort of "Hmmm...Oh. Huh." Which let me know there was something missing in my recitation- or the idea sucks.

I went back to re-read what I wrote and decided to attack the story differently. And I realized I have a habit of writing too much in the past tense. My characters look back at certain key events and explaining them too literally-there is no sense of discovery, just the character's recollections. Instead I am trying to write more progressively, taking the reader along with the experiences of the characters.

This looking back is a habit I employ in my real life, too.

For me, how people react to situations is dependent upon who they are, their experiences, and how they were raised. All of those emotional and rational attitudes dictate the choices we make and how we deal with stress and challenges. But when you interact with someone, unless you've known them for years or grown up with them, you don't know the reasons behind their behavior.

I like to try to guess the why behind what people do. If someone overreacts, I usually chalk it up to a bad day or week. If someone dismisses me, of course I take it as some sort of failure within myself, but then rationalize it later as insecurity on their part. And believe me, with a little more information, like family members, upbringing, or job, I can dream up a whole slew of justifications for behavior. And just to be clear, so that if we meet in less than great circumstances you don't think I am automatically analyzing you, well, I guess I am- it's a bad habit I have, but, in my defense, I am usually trying to find the silver lining, not vilify.

Unless they are certain people who those close to me know I can't stand- those people are just self-centered and mean.

So in fiction, do we need or want to know all the backstory, the why behind the things the characters do? Or do we want to simply watch the action unfold and infer the rest. I am trying hard to live this way-in the moment, not always looing back, so I should try to write this way. I think it will work much better for this particular story.

1 comment:

  1. In fiction, you as the writer need to know everything so that you can make your characters speak and behave in believable ways, but the reader only needs to know things that directly impact the story. Otherwise, you'll only slow your pace and bog the reader down with unnecessary baggage. (I know - easier said than done!)

    Also, I've read that one of the best ways you can tell if you really know what you're writing about is if you can summarize your story in one sentence. If you can't, you probably need to think some more about what exactly you're trying to say. Again, WAY easier said than done!